The Way Children draw human figures has changed since the 1970s, reflecting modern society’s attitudes to Gender

Posted on July 17, 2019

With the last half century Western Europe countries having enjoyed a large increase in gender equalities where the employment rate for women in Germany has increased from 48% in 1980 to 73% in 2014. Psychologists are interested to see if there are any societal-level changes do filter down and affect children’s conceptions of gender.

A team at the University of Munster and Osnabruck University, led by Bettina Lamm seeks to compare the way young German children in 1977 draw human figure with the way that age matched German children in 2015 drew a figure. Results shows two parallel changes: girls in 2015 more often chose to draw a female figure than girls in 1977. At the same time, the children tested in 2015 depicted female figures as more distinctly feminine than the children in the 1970s.

Results are closely linked to societal changes of growing status equality between the genders on the one hand, and increasing gender differentiation, on the other. In terms of gender differentiation, the female figures drawn in 2015 were more overtly feminised in stereotypical fashion through their clothing and accessories than those drawn in 1977.

Instead, there is a trend for the male figures drawn to appear less overtly masculinised. Researchers speculate that this could be because in the school context, boys may have been reluctant to draw stereotypically masculine accessories like guns, out of fear of disapproval due to male attributes becoming ‘less valued or socially accepted”.

Researchers concluded that these parallel trends are apparent in the drawings which seems to reflect the rise of gender equality in the German society thus girls’ being happier to draw female figures thanks to their greater perception of enhanced female self-esteem), and on the other hand, girls drawing more distinctly feminine figures, due to the growing recognition and consensus in education and childcare more generally that “gender justice demands an awareness of dissimilarities between boys and girls without limiting opportunities for either gender.”


Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Research Digest


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